Five days before voting opens for the ASUP elections on March 26, the quiet side of the Bauccio Commons transformed into a political stage. Last Thursday night, ASUP’s executive board candidates shared individual speeches about their platforms at the annual ASUP Speech Night.
Seniors Kelly Krigger and Sam Starkey — emcees for the night — peppered the otherwise formal event with banter and jokes. Provided with a buffet spread from Bon Appetit and mocktails, students in attendance settled in to learn about their future representatives.
Almost every ASUP executive board candidate is running unopposed, with the exception of the Director of Finance, which has three candidates.
Even though the majority of contestants are running unopposed, a few steps have to be met before they’re in office. The ASUP Constitution states that at least 10 percent of the student body has to vote in the election for the election to be considered valid, and each candidate has to obtain a majority of the vote in order to be elected.
President and Vice Presidential candidates Nick Owen (P) and Olivia Mitchell (VP) served as the junior class senators during the 2018-19 school year, and the two are running unopposed.
In their speech, Owen and Mitchell described a platform focused on how they will address observed inadequacies at UP and how they hope to improve surroundings, scholarship and student life.
Their initiatives include making all on-campus facilities in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility, initiating a series of town halls to strengthen communication between ASUP and the student body, working with the bookstore to negotiate need-based textbook grants and including preferred pronouns on student identification cards (IDs).
“Complacency can plague a college campus, bringing with it lackluster experiences and little ambition,” said Owen. “To administrators and others, it looks like an unengaged student body that is satisfied with how things are. So, now I ask you: Are you satisfied?”
The director of finance position currently has three candidates: freshman Joey Paumier, junior Brendon Wexted Hand and sophomore Annael Mejia. The director of finance works with the Financial Management Board to distribute more than $300,000 between organizations on campus, as well as monitoring all ASUP finances.
Joey Paumier, current freshman class senator, expressed his gratitude for the community that UP has provided. Paumier said that in his time at serving as a representative for the freshman class, he has been made aware of “the need for increased funding to our many organizations on campus.”
He called for expansions in the Health and Counseling Center staff, food services off campus at local restaurants, free student access to the Portland Streetcar network and a “de-stigmatization of sexual activity among students” in the form of providing condoms at the Health Center.
Junior Brendon Wexted Hand introduced himself with a list of the many extracurriculars and academic societies that he has participated in during his time at UP. Wexted, who is current ASUP controller and member of the Financial Management Board, told the crowd that his experience in finance has provided him a unique insight into the challenges in the position. If he were to be elected, he promised to improve communication between club leaders and ASUP, create a strong bond within the ASUP community and to update the ASUP Constitution to assure the most consistency possible.
Sophomore Annael Mejia took the stage with a heartfelt story about her own freshman year. She discussed struggling to adapt to the new environment and pouring her time solely into academics without having a strong sense of community. Then, she was introduced to FGEN, a community of first-generation students. Through this group, she formed new connections and made new friends.
Mejia said that if she were elected as director of finance, she would take the needs of each individual club in mind. She emphasized the importance of inclusivity and diversity across campus, as well as her devotion to ensuring that the financial management board supports new organizations and the impacts that clubs have on campus.
“I ask myself, ‘Will funding this grant allow students a better college experience similar to the way FGEN affected mine?’” Mejia said
Sophomore Ryan Thoms, the only candidate for director of communications, spoke about holding UP to the promises they have made to incoming freshmen, and he told the story of his initial visit to UP. He described seeing a beautiful campus full of welcoming students and accommodating facilities.
“But when I finally came to the University of Portland, I saw a different story than the one I was told,” Thoms said.
Thoms expressed disappointment in UP’s lack of physical spaces for underrepresented youth, and he said that UP is one of the only universities on the west coast to lack an LGBTQ center.
He also described witnessing an incident at UP where a Public Safety officer was overly forceful. Thoms said that when he went to make a complaint, he was told that there is no way to formally complain about Public Safety without first submitting the complaint through Public Safety itself.
“I felt like this was a problem that I was hopeless to fix,” Thoms said. “I felt intimidated.”
Finally, he discussed the long wait times observed by many students at the Health and Counseling Center.
“That’s just not how sickness works,” Thoms said. “I can’t reschedule my strep throat to Thursday. I have to go to urgent care, spend 200 dollars that I don’t have, all while having a perfectly accessible health center right here on campus.”
Thoms promised to build his campaign on establishing physical spaces for underrepresented students on campus, adding more walk in hours at the Health Center and establishing a formal complaint system that does not go through Public Safety.
“And I want it done before the university has the audacity to raise tuition once again,” Thoms said to applause.
The next speech fell to Victoria Beccar Varela, who is the only candidate running for Campus Program Board director. Varela, who has been serving as special events coordinator at CPB for the past two years, delivered a pop-culture laden speech about CPB’s most popular events, including Rock the Bluff and Dance of the Decades.
“We throw the only loud events on and near campus that P-safe can’t shut down, and it was our organization that single-handedly brought back the Jonas Brothers — you’re welcome!” Varela said to applause. “Students bring the funds, we bring the fun, let’s not overcomplicate this.”
Varela promised to continue to bring style and spectacle to The Bluff, citing that CPB events have the power to form relationships, friendships and memories that are foundational to the UP experience. She said that although the position is time-consuming, it’s a job that’s she’s passionate about and has been her goal for years.
“Every CPB event should be a must-not-miss,” Varela said, “Something you can remember and hold onto, something that can make you happy.”
All students vote for members of the executive board, as well as two senators in their upcoming class year, and two senators to represent them in their major. A full list of those running to be senators can be found here.
Voting will open at 7:00 am on March 26 and close at 7:00 pm on March 27. Students must register with the Engage Portal to cast their vote.
Gabi DiPaulo is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.